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Tree lovers attack wildlife trust’s work at Knettishall Heath




Knettishall Heath with Exmoor ponies introduced to help maintain it by grazing
Knettishall Heath with Exmoor ponies introduced to help maintain it by grazing

Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s efforts to raise biodiversity on Knettishall Heath have been criticised in a Facebook campaign.

A Facebook group, Save the Knettishall Trees, was started by Christine Wood, from Coney Weston, who objected to the trust felling trees to extend areas of open heathland.

Mrs Wood said: “A lot of local people are very unhappy. I took it upon myself to attempt to do something.

“My motivation to start an active opposition came from the realisation that, with all the loss of trees and woodland that has already happened at Knettishall, we still have not seen the end of it.”

As Knettishall Heath is a site of special scientific interest, all SWT does must be approved by Natural England – even mowing grass – but Mrs Wood is also unhappy with the NE national policy on heaths.

She argued: “In view of our dire need of more naturally evolved woodland, it would seem common sense to carefully evaluate where heath restoration should go ahead, as it often goes hand in hand with the loss of woodland.”

SWT says it has felled 23 of 251 acres of woodland .

Julian Roughton, its chief executive, said: “The open heathy areas of Knettishall Heath are of national significance as since the 1940s most Breckland heathland has been lost to development, forestry or ploughed up for agriculture. Two thirds of the area of open heath at Knettishall that existed in 1940 has gone.

“This is the final phase of restoration work that we set out in 2012. Connecting up the remaining areas of open heath will recreate the conditions needed for rare specialist heathland species including plants, invertebrates and birds such as woodlark and nightjar.”

While Mrs Wood’s six-page letter to the trust is on the Facebook page, Mr Roughton full reply is not.

One review of the page claims posts supporting SWT or explaining its science have been deleted.

Forestry Commission figures show 80 per cent of English heathland has been lost since 1800 and woodland cover increased from five to 11 per cent of land use in the 20th century.



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